Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back Up Your Birth Control with EC

Today is the Back Up Your Birth Control Day of Action!

The Back Up Your Birth Control campaign focuses on increasing awareness of and accessibility to emergency contraception (EC). It's important to get the right information out there about EC. It is NOT the abortion pill. It is NOT dangerous. It is NOT 100% effective (no form of contraception is).

It always amazes me how little some women know about EC and how it works. In college I was the Women's Studies Major, well of reproductive health information, so people always came (some still come) to me with their questions. I'm going to put that hat on right now and provide a little 411 for those reading who don't know:

You use EC, also known as the morning-after pill or Plan B, up to 3-5 days after you've had unprotected sex in order to prevent a pregnancy. The sooner you take it after intercourse, the better. It basically works like amped up birth control -- it uses hormones to stop fertilization or implantation. Because of this, it doesn't actually stop a pregnancy if it's already happened. You should take a pregnancy test before you get the EC because it'll be useless to take it if you're already pregnant. I repeat, it is NOT the abortion pill. The side-effects are similar to what you'd experience taking the pill, perhaps a bit more intense depending on your body and the hormone levels you're used to.

Currently in the U.S., EC is available over the counter if you're over 18 -- YAAAAY! For the time being, those under 18 need to have a prescription, but the age is being pushed down to 17 and the courts are asking the FDA to consider removing the age restrictions. (You can take action to make that happen here.) ETA: There are other barriers to access that you can read about here (PDF), including cost, coverage, supply, etc.

So there's your education for the day. If you have any other questions, you can ask them in the comments or email me.

Head on down to the pharmacy and stock up on EC. Go with your friends and have them do the same. And keep a stash handy so you can help somebody out when there's an emergency.

(Cross-posted at Jump off the Bridge.)


Mächtige Maus said...

Good thing I checked in at The Underground before drafting a post or it would have been a redundant post cheering the Plan B news.

What the heck, I'm going to give a redundant cheer anyway! Yay!

I did have one point that made me pause. The Judge left the ultimate age cut-off decision with the FDA so it could go lower than 17. Is there an age that is too young to grant access to the drug? A part of me wants to say that 11 or 12 is too young, but that is probably the naive part of me that clings to the notion that girls that age aren't having sex.

frau sally benz said...

Is there an age that is too young to grant access to the drug?

It's definitely hard to answer this. If a girl is "old" enough to have sex and be able to get pregnant, then some might argue that makes her "old" enough to use birth control and EC. (I use old in scare quotes because clearly a 9-year-old might have her period and might be having sex, but she's surely not old.) Is there an age restriction on birth control?

I look at birth control and EC the same way I do other medications. It's a drug, and should therefore be handled with care. There should be more education about it, but treating it like a dirty thing that can't be spoken about, let alone taken, makes things worse. If I had to pick an age to remove restrictions on BC and EC, I guess I'd pick 13, because at least then they're considered a teen? A bit arbitrary, there might be a better age medically.

Mächtige Maus said...

Isn't it amazing how 13 sounds better than 12?

frau sally benz said...

It's all very odd really. But 13 has TEEN in it! haha